Posted by: fvbcdm | April 7, 2012

Good Friday (6 April 2012)

 

Today is Good Friday, a day called “good” because of the great good that Our Lord Jesus Christ bestowed upon us by his redemptive death on the cross, but a day which is made sorrowful by our contemplation of his terrible suffering and death.

Both Saints Matthew and Mark, in their accounts of the crucifixion of Our Lord, tell us that while hanging in agony on the cross, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  These words of our dying Lord are for some people a problem.  What did he mean?  Did he actually think that his heavenly father had forsaken him?  Were his emotional as well as physical sufferings so great that he felt abandoned by God?  Did his body, on fire with pain, cause him to ask for relief from the trauma of crucifixion, and then receive none of that relief?  

 

The answer to their questions is to be found in Jesus’s words themselves and in our understanding of the source of those words.  They are taken from the first line of Psalm 22. The devout Jews of that time knew the psalms by heart and used them as the basis of their prayer life, just as we all know the Our Father and the Hail Mary and make frequent use of them in our relationship with God.  If you were present at the bedside of a dying friend of yours and you heard him say “Our Father” or “Hail Mary” out loud, and then lapse into silence because it was very difficult for him to speak, you would understand that he was praying the entire prayer silently after having begun it aloud.  That is the case here, too.  The 22nd psalm is relatively long.  Jesus, in terrible pain and parched with thirst, could hardly have recited the whole thing aloud, but gave to the world by that first verse of the psalm an indication of what was going on in his heart and mind and soul during those moments shortly before his death—the most important and influential death in the history of humankind.  I encourage you to read the psalm today and to make it a part of your prayer life throughout your life.  Let us listen to some of the lines of that immortal prayer which begins with a cry of anguish but ends in a statement of profound confidence and optimism:

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? …

I cry out by day and you answer not; 

By night, and there is no relief for me. 

Be not far from me, for I am in distress;

Be near, for I have no one to help me.

O my help, hasten to aid me…

I will proclaim your name to my brethren;

In the midst of the assembly I will praise you.

He has not spurned nor disdained the wretched man in his misery,

Nor did he turn his face away from him.  

So by your gift will I utter praise in the vast assembly;

I will fulfill my vows before those who fear him…

They who seek the Lord shall praise him,

May your hearts be ever merry!

 

To him alone shall bow down all who sleep in the earth;

Before him shall bend all who go down into the dust.

 

And to him MY SOUL SHALL LIVE

And my descendants shall serve him.

Let the coming generation be told of the Lord

That they may proclaim to a people yet to be born

The justice he has shown.

 

Thus, what seems to begin in despair

Ends in triumph and victory and trust. 

And these are the feelings of our blessed Lord as he dies that we might live.  Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

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